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American Cities with the Best Air Quality

There is a lot to consider when moving to a new place. Your mind is probably preoccupied with the job you may have, the house or apartment you may need, and how you are going to get around. While these logistics are paramount to figuring out where you would like to live, it is important not to forget a less discussed item: air quality.

Image of a city with air pollution

Air quality is a measure of the level of pollutants that are in the air you breathe in any given place. If air quality is particularly low, then there has been the release of elevated levels of toxic pollutants into the air such as carbon dioxide, lead, sulfur oxides, and more. If the air quality score is high, then there has been a limited release of toxic pollutants in the nearby atmosphere.

Why Does Air Quality Matter?

The long and short of it is that air quality has a direct impact on your physical health. Poor air quality can lead to a variety of different illnesses and prolong existing issues. Some of the health concerns present due to the impact of air quality include:

  • Emphysema
  • Asthma
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Increases in risk for cancer diagnoses
  • Obesity
  • Increases in risk of stroke
  • Impaired blood vessel functions
  • Increases in risk of pulmonary disease

While it is impossible to avoid pollutants altogether, it is possible to live in an area where air quality is higher. This eliminates some of your risk and exposure to health issues.

Does Higher Air Quality Improve My Life?

The short answer: Yes! The fewer toxic pollutants you are exposed to, the better. Your physical health benefits immensely the less you are exposed to pollutants. Even better, your mental health is improved the less you are around areas with poor air quality.

Image of a man wearing a face mask overlooking a city

Not only is your health better, so is your ability to function. Breathing higher quality air has been proven to improve cognitive ability and decision-making. Further, it is shown that high air quality can increase productivity in an office or schooling setting.

If you work in an office setting or a school, you should encourage whoever manages the property to diligently measure air quality. Strong air quality and ventilation can be the difference between a bad day at the office and a great one.

How Does Air Quality Impact Cities?

Depending on the size of the city, air quality can be either a massive issue or a huge asset. In major cities, there is simply too much pollution to ignore. These toxic pollutants have negative effects on lots of people. When you factor in the number of people in major cities, and their levels of industrialization, it can be a frightening thought.

Whether it be through industry or transportation, pollutants can quickly enter the atmosphere.  Sometimes, major cities get so polluted that they become engulfed by a visible layer of smog. For obvious reasons, you certainly do not want to be living under a cloud of dark smog.

The Good News: Breathing Clean Air in Cities is Possible

The good news is that there are many American cities that have very high levels of air quality. While high air quality cities are not everywhere, you will probably have heard of some of the places listed below.

Here are some of the American cities that have high levels of air quality and low levels of particulate matter:

1. Norfolk, Virginia

The coastal city, best known for housing the largest naval base in the country, has consistently placed in the top 20 American cities in level of air quality. More surprisingly, the air quality of the city has improved for eight years in a row. The city has been named multiple times to the American Lung Association’s “List of Cleanest U.S. Cities.”

Image of Norfolk, Virginia

2. Springfield, Missouri

Springfield, which is about equidistant from the hubs of Kansas City, Memphis, and St. Louis, sits in the cleanest pocket of air in the state of Missouri. The three major markets mentioned above have never achieved the level of air quality and cleanliness as Springfield.

3. Casper, Wyoming

The charming, historical Wyoming town has come to more recognition as it becomes a tourist destination. However, Casper should be more known for its high levels of air quality, especially as it was a 20th century oil town. In fact, in the American Lung Association’s 2022 annual report, Casper was only one of a few cities determined to have zero “unhealthy air” days. Now that’s a breath of fresh air!

4. Cheyenne, Wyoming

Keeping our list in the Cowboy State, this time at the state capital, Cheyenne is the largest city in Wyoming yet maintains an exceptionally high level of air quality in its local atmosphere. The city was in the top five cleanest cities by particle pollution in the American Lung Association’s 2022 report.

Image of Cheyenne, Wyoming

5. Norwich, Connecticut

The small city sees the intersection of three major rivers and is often considered “The Rose of New England,” and for good reason. Their level of particulate matter is nearly 400% lower than the standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The city plans to expand their passenger rail public transit and could see that number climb even lower.

6. Vancouver, Washington

This city sits on the border of Oregon and Washington and is considered a suburb or Portland. Vancouver sits right on the Columbia River and has views of many of Washington’s mountain ranges. It is no surprise, then, that the city also performs quite well on average air quality relative to similar sized cities.

7. Springfield, Massachusetts

The city, located about 100 miles from Boston, is probably most famous for housing the Dr. James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. However, the city should also be famous for its clean air. Bar none, Springfield has some of the best air in the country, and the city takes extra precautions to reduce pollutants. They even have a local rule against keeping your car running if it is not in use!

Image of Springfield, Massachusetts

8. Burlington, Vermont

The regional college town is the most populous city in Vermont. Famous for its cultural and artistic scenes, Burlington is also the first major city to run entirely on renewable energy. It is consistently one of the cleanest cities in the United States, and one of only six to have no days of unhealthy ozone layers.

These are just some of the many American cities that have healthy levels of air quality and low levels of particulate concentration. Hopefully, you have learned something about the value of high air quality and keep it in mind as you select the cities that are right for your life.

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